Melbourne’s awards are named after Club identities, with particular concentration on our wartime fallen. Below are the identities as they have evolved since the Best and Fairest was first awarded in 1935. The Best and Fairest was named in Truscott’s honour as of 1943. Other awards for performance at the Casey Scorpions and staff awards are named in honour of the late Troy Broadbridge and Jim Cardwell.
A new award was also added in 2013, with the James McDonald award for the Best Team Man recognising the contribution of McDonald as dual Best and Fairest, respected captain and contributor throughout his career.
Keith ‘Bluey’ Truscott – Best and Fairest
Guernsey No. 5
Heritage No. 557
1937 – 1940, 1942
50 games, 31 goals
Premierships 1939, 1940
A larger than life redhead who went on to become a wartime hero, renowned for his prowess as a pilot, ‘Bluey’ played on a half forward flank and was celebrated for his determination. He was killed in an air accident over Exmouth Gulf (WA) in 1943, and Melbourne coach ‘Checker’ Hughes named the Best and Fairest in his honour. ‘Bluey’ was never a natural footballer, but had a great sense of competition and loved being part of the Club. He was also not a natural pilot, having problems with depth perception, but he overcame this obstacle to be recognised with two Distinguished Flying Crosses.
Sid Anderson – Second Best and Fairest
Guernsey No. 36
Heritage No. 575
1939 – 1941
52 games, 12 goals
Premierships 1939, 1940, 1941
An RAAF navigator, Anderson – who was also a brilliant cricketer - was a wingman who had the agility to match his height, although his light frame was sometimes a concern. Among the best at Grand Final time, playing in a memorable hattrick of flags for Melbourne, Anderson lost his life in the air over New Guinea in 1944. His fate was not known for some time, as he was listed as ‘missing, believed killed’.
Ron Barassi Snr – Third Best and Fairest
Guernsey No. 31
Heritage No. 551
1936 – 1940
58 games, 84 goals
A courageous rover, Barassi was nineteenth man in the 1940 premiership side. Tragically, he was killed at Tobruk when he took over driving an ambulance from an ill colleague. Melbourne went on to foster the talents of his son, Ronald Junior, with the entire family at the heart of the Club. One of the central documents at the Club is the Coterie supporter group’s ‘pledge’, committing to assist the Barassi family following Ron Snr’s death. Ronald Jnr then came to Melbourne as the first example of the father-son rule, and became a legend of the game.
Ivor Warne-Smith – Fourth Best and Fairest
Guernsey No. 14
Heritage No. 355
1919, 1925 – 1932
146 games, 110 goals
Brownlow Medallist 1926, 1928
A quiet achiever who could ‘play anywhere’, Warne-Smith dominated his era, winning Brownlows in 1926 and 1928, later ruling supreme in a different role, working with the likes of Norm Smith, Albert Chadwick and Jim Cardwell to construct the Melbourne brilliance of the 1950s and 1960s. Ivor did not have a straightforward path into the game, however. He was a Gallipoli veteran, who was gassed under fire, but who also served in WW2. Ivor went to play in Tasmania and run an apple farm after his first season with Melbourne – and was only persuaded to continue his career after a number of VFL clubs expressed an interest due to his starring role at the Latrobe Football Club.
Dick Taylor – Fifth Best and Fairest
Guernsey No. 35
Heritage No. 404
1922 – 1931, 1935
164 games, 100 goals
One of the finest centremen of his day, Taylor played a major part in Melbourne’s 1926 premiership success, and went on to serve as a Committee member after his retirement. A model of consistency, he played over 100 consecutive games. He is best known for his ground skills, and during that era, his partnership with teammate Stan ‘Bunny’ Wittman heading down the MCG wing was legendary. Taylor played 15 times for Victoria, and went on to coach North Melbourne in 1932 and 1933, before heading back to resume his involvement with Melbourne.
Norm Smith – Coaches Award
Guernsey No. 4
Heritage No. 543
1935 – 1948
210 games, 546 goals
Premierships 1939, 1940, 1941, 1948
Before he coached the Club to six premierships in 1955, 1956, 1957, 1959, 1960 and 1964, ‘Smithy’ ruled supreme in Melbourne’s forward line, playing in the premierships of 1939, 1940, 1941 and 1948. The Club’s all-time leading goalkicker until surpassed by David Neitz, he dominated the game for four decades as coach, player and larger than life personality. However, when he first came to the Club, he was renowned for being unobtrusive, gradually growing into a force to be reckoned with as he made his way in the game. This extended into his seasons as coach, in which he confirmed himself as one of the most intense competitors ever seen. He is the coach of both the AFL and MFC Teams of the Century. In the ultimate recognition, the award for the best player on the ground on Grand Final Day is named in his honour – the Norm Smith Medal.
Ron Barassi Jnr – Leadership Award
Guernsey No. 31
Heritage No. 741
1953 – 1964
204 games, 295 goals
Premierships 1955, 1956, 1957, 1959, 1960, 1964
A true legend of the game, Barassi is integral to Melbourne, and was part of the Club from his childhood, with his father having played a generation before. Barassi Jnr revolutionised the role of ruck rover, and his natural leadership skills proved instrumental to his success as both player and coach. He also had the mixed blessing of living with coach Norm Smith during his youth, with Smith being harder on Barassi than any other player. However, Barassi was up to the challenge - a fierce competitor who captained the Club to two flags out of the six premiership sides in which he played, and went on to cement his fame as a master coach at both Carlton and North Melbourne, and an innovator of the game, particularly in fostering the ‘Irish Experiment’ that brought Jim Stynes and Sean Wight to the Melbourne Football Club.
Harold Ball – Best Young Player
Guernsey No. 11
Heritage No. 569
1939 – 1940
33 games, 33 goals
Premierships 1939, 1940
An emerging ruckman, Ball was fundamental to the premiership successes of the Club in 1939 and 1940, before losing his life during World War Two. He originally hailed from Merbein, in the north of Victoria, and like other ruckmen who followed him, wore the No. 11 guernsey with great pride. Ball worked at the MCG as a groundsman when he first came to Melbourne, and was instrumental in the team’s success in 1939 and 1940. He was shaping up as an inspiring defender, and in his first year, was named as the team’s Best First Year player. The award was named in his honour as of 1946. Ball was just 21 when he was killed on an expedition to collect and transport the wounded, and was buried at Kranji War Cemetery in Singapore.
Ian Ridley – Club Ambassador Award
Guernsey No. 24
Heritage No. 755
1954 – 1961
130 games, 228 goals
Premierships 1955, 1956, 1957, 1959, 1960
One of the most gritty, tenacious rovers of his day, and rated as the best since the war, Ian ‘Tiger’ Ridley - originally from Jeparit in the Mallee - was widely known for his selflessness and enthusiasm, and for overcoming bad eyesight and lack of height to become a legend of the game. Jim Cardwell (Club Secretary and recruiting guru) summed up Ridley when he described him – ‘Small in inches but very big in heart.’ Ridley was the first to ever play wearing contact lenses, and was a key figure in five Melbourne premierships. In 1958, when Melbourne was defeated by Collingwood in a shock loss, he had his nose badly broken, but played on regardless. After retirement, Ridley coached the Club between 1971 and 1973. He also went on to serve in a number of wider V/AFL and administrative posts, particularly as Melbourne’s Club President between 1992 and 1996.